Be our guest! Be our guest! Put our service to the test. Tie your napkin ’round your neck, cherie and and we’ll provide the rest – Soup du jour… cheese souffle…Oh la, la!
There’s no mistaking it. When I step out into the cold night air having drank, ate, laughed, (shed a little tear), clapped, gasped and whooped a lot there is no doubt – this is a night of epic proportions. Disney’s Beauty & The Beast is one heck of a production on a scale Sydney just hasn’t seen before.
Earlier that night I find myself seated at Luke’s Kitchen inside the Kimpton Margot Sydney, a five-star hotel owning its moment in the spotlight. The former home of the Sydney Water Board was brought back to life by the Primus Hotel and since then it has been stunningly reinvented under the Kimpton brand with glamour to match our upcoming musical experience.
Luke Mangan was asked to step up to the table to create a meal worthy of a musical which has grossed over $1.7b since opening on Broadway in 1994. No pressure then?
After a glass of prosecco we kick off with a theatrically matched dinner. Soup du jour is an asian coconut broth poured at the table from a clear teapot (note there is no Mrs Potts at this point!). It’s beautifully balanced with a few wontons commanding centre stage. Even if you are not a fan of soup as a starter, the fact it comes with Luke’s famous garlic bread is reason enough to order – think of a decadent golden croissant having a love affair with its cheese and garlic buddies.
I opt for ‘Fish a La Belle’ which is the lighter option of the three mains on offer. It’s memorable for the dark crunchy semolina topping, kind of like a posh beer batter which gives the dish a bit of attitude contrasted with a bed of mashed kipler potatoes and a circle of creamy saffron aoli. To finish is something that sounds beastly but isn’t – ‘The grey stuff’ is actually a cute little dessert of profiteroles filled with coconut ice cream with a puddle of dulce de leche for extra sweetness.
After dinner, we head out and walk south to the Capitol Theatre. On opening night the crowd is eclectic and memorable – there are more sequins, wigs, and ball gowns than Dame Edna’s wardrobe.. and that’s just the boys.
This is an audience which is already panting for action. The curtains go up and we sit in darkness as the first of hundreds of special effects transition a human form with pyrotechnics. The musical is true to the film. Belle in all her blue full skirted glory glides across the stage her head buried in a book.. When will she escape this provincial life? Understudy Jackson Head plays Gaston – a jolly-green-giant of ego proporations, whose poses and love of himself is only matched by the three infatuated girl groupies and the audience.
It’s hard not to wish much of the first scene away to get to the real act – the woods, castle and the beast with his loyal staff turned household objects. Lumière, Cogsworth and Mrs Potts (Rohan Browne, Gareth Jacobs, and Jayde Westaby) bring comedic banter pun after pun. The chemistry between Cogsworth and Lumiere sets to rival the main characters. Lumiere wiggles his hips in a way that no man nor chandelier should ever be possible.
The show’s finest moment is a miracle of pyrotechnics, lighting, costumes, stage changes and tap dancing talent with an unashamedly OTT gaggle of dancers in a Busby Berkeley-style spectacular, spectacular! My absolute favourite scene is where the dancers are lying down whilst overhead mirrors recreate a style of synchronished non water swimming with precision, colour and flamboyance. Brendan Xavier as the Beast, is well beastly, bad tempered, terrible manners but endearingly softens in tenderness from the dining scene to the moment he lets Belle go to look after her father.
This is a love story with a happy ending (so I won’t spoil it). The story is as old as time, but there is a reason it has endured. To give us hope and to understand the best of humanity that can come from love.
I have to confess that we didn’t head back to the Kimpton post an emotionally charged show, but if we did, the Wilmot Bar would be our destination to carry on the night with Beauty and the Beast inspired cocktails such as La Belle Enfant, The Chimera and The Versailles Dream.
So take advice from Belle “I want adventure in the great wide somewhere! I want it more than I can tell!”. If you feel the same, book your seats and buckle in.